Most companies use applicant tracking systems to streamline the hiring process and identify qualified candidates. ATS programs scan resumes for specific keywords and rank them based on relevancy.
A well-formatted resume is easy for ATS systems to read and understand. Avoid using tables or columns, as these can confuse the program and cause the information to get jumbled together.
1. Use Standard Headings
Most ATS systems convert your resume to text files when scanning, so fancy formatting can get lost. This is especially true when using a designed template with elements like columns, tables, icons, text boxes, or non-standard fonts.
It’s also important to keep in mind that ATS systems can only read the information that is written within the document. So, for example, if you use an icon that has nothing to do with your job search or a logo, the software will be confused.
Similarly, it’s best to avoid unique phrasings and idioms when creating your resume. Instead, stick with standard titles for sections like “Work Experience” or “Education.” If you want to include an acronym or abbreviation, write out the whole word the first time you use it so that the ATS will understand its meaning.
2. Avoid Tables or Columns
When you apply for a job, the recruiter uses an applicant tracking system to process your resume. This software searches for keywords that match the job description and filters out applications that don’t fit.
If you’re using a template that includes tables or columns, the ATS may not be able to read the information in them. This can cause parsing errors that prevent keywords from being searched for or matched up with the right jobs.
Instead, use a Word or PDF file to ensure your template can be read. Also, try to avoid using fancy or untraditional fonts as they can cause formatting problems and make your resume less ATS-friendly. Instead, use standard serif or sans serif fonts for readability and ATS compatibility.
3. Use ATS-Friendly Fonts
ATS-friendly fonts are those that are easily readable by humans. Unusual fonts or fancy formatting can confuse the software and cause it to misread sections. Also, be careful when using bullet points and avoid unusual shapes or arrows.
Stick to a sans-serif font like Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Tahoma, or Verdana. ATS-friendly fonts have straight lines and sharp corners, making them easier for an ATS to read. Avoid using tables and columns as they can confuse the software. Also, be sure to avoid including any graphics or images. Lastly, remember to proofread for errors and typos. Misspellings and grammatical mistakes can signal to an ATS that your resume isn’t professional enough for consideration. This can lead to your application getting rejected. Even worse, you could be overlooked for the job completely!
4. Keep Your Contact Information Out of the Header or Footer
Regarding resume formatting, you must balance making your document look professional and adhering to ATS guidelines. Images, columns, and non-standard fonts trip up many ATS systems.
In addition, don’t include your contact information in the header or footer of the document. This will only confuse the ATS and may cause it to skip over your resume entirely.
Instead, place your name at the top of your resume and include a brief description of your professional background below it. You can also include your phone number and email address, but these should be inserted in a smaller font (12-14 points) and should be aligned with your name. Include your home address in a separate paragraph if you need to include it.
5. Include Keywords
It’s important to include keywords in your resume. They help the ATS recognize and match your application to the job description. However, make sure your keywords are used in the right context. For example, if the job description mentions “logical thinking skills,” you should use the same phrase in your resume (as opposed to “logical reasoning skills”). You can also create new sections for keywords that don’t fit into other sections, such as computer skills or languages.
To find the best keywords, look at several job advertisements and identify common terms. Then, choose the best ones and include them in your resume. But be careful not to overdo it! Keyword stuffing can turn off a recruiter. And it might get your resume rejected by the ATS.